Throughout the summer holidays, I would like to make your readers aware of the risks our children face as they potentially spend more time online – and offer some tips on how to keep them safe.
Sadly, we know many children are seeing inappropriate content online. It’s a deeply disturbing fact that children can stumble across pornography, and the ease with which children can live-stream themselves online is something all parents should be aware of. Children with phones and tablets are effectively taking a TV crew into their bedroom and being able to broadcast to people they don’t know. We know this can leave them open to grooming and abuse and can have an effect on their emotional health and wellbeing. We are particularly worried about grooming and children having contact with strangers online, sometimes being coerced or manipulated into sharing images. Back in 2015, in a Barnardo’s report, some of our practitioners told us that referrals for internet-related child sexual abuse support services ranged up to 75% of their work. Barnardo’s has called for greater oversight of the internet industry, including a real need for an independent regulator. We are also calling on government for better information and education for parents, social workers and teachers when it comes to online safety. In a bid to tackle online abuse and the devastating impact it can have, we would urge parents to try and understand the online world their child is using. Learn about the games and apps they use and make sure that parental controls, privacy setting and online filters are being used.
Internet Matters has some great parental guides on everything from live-streaming to the sites, apps and games your children might want to use.
If your child seems worried about something, talk to them. It’s vital that parents keep talking to their children about their online games and take a look together at what they are doing, who they are talking to online and what they’re talking about.
You can report inappropriate behaviour or material to an organisation like CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) and we would urge anyone looking for advice or support to go to www.barnardos.org.uk.
It’s worth remembering that the internet can also be a fantastic place for children to develop, to grow and achieve safely. It’s a place where they can reach out for support if they’re struggling with a particular issue – so there is a good side to the online world.
Wishing you a safe and happy summer.
Barnardo’s regional director, North Midlands
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